I talk and write a lot about overcoming fear, how to Get the Nerve®, and the three critical questions of life: Who are you? What do you want? How are you going to get it? A lot of the underlying message is that change is possible and you can have more than you imagine.
The fact of the matter is, though, you may not know how to get what you want. Today’s blog is very practical guidance on one of the cornerstones of changing your life: Writing a resume.
The major function of your resume is to tell the story of you; it’s this story that will inspire a hiring manager to meet with you.
There are several types of resume styles, including functional, chronological, targeted, and mixed (or combination). I recommend mixed, because you’re immediately giving the reader information about your skills sets before you delve into your past experience.
Once you settle on a style, you need to consider design. Unfortunately, I think this is where a lot of people get hung up. They want something unique and creative, but if design is not your forte, as it is not mine, there are great ways around this.
Here are some options:
- In Microsoft Word, use a resume templates (start by going to File, then New, and look for templates)
- Find a design you like from one of the following places and copy it
- The Internet
- Your college or university (especially if you went to a business school)
What you’re looking for is something clean, classy, symmetrical, balanced, and with plenty of white space (the amount of white you see on a page where there is no text – it means your resume is not overly crowded). Pick something with interesting formatting that stands out from the rest, but listen to your gut—if you’re worried it looks unprofessional, it probably does. There are a lot of templates out there that are garbage.
Once you have your design ready to go, think about how long you want your resume to be. The unending debate between one page, two pages, or as many as it takes to get the point across seems to still be going strong. My philosophy is that it doesn’t really matter, but less is more. If you are a formatting genius and can get it on one page, that’s your best option.
When you build your header, if you’re not using a template, think about it looking like letterhead. Your name should be the most obvious, and you should also be sure to include your address, email, and phone number. (Be sure your email address is professional. Get something with your name in it, like JohnQPublic@gmail.com, or if you have an email address from your business school, use that.) Put this header at the top of every page in case the pages of your resume get separated when the hiring manager or recruiter is reviewing them.
Because employers are looking at so many resumes—likely hundreds for each open position—you have to also help them quickly identify what it is they need to know about you.
Below is a list of sections to include and the order I recommend you list them, especially if you are following a mixed style resume. The ones with asterisks are optional; you may not have something for these sections, and that’s OK.
- Strengths (or Skills)
- Professional experience
- Professional affiliations*
- Community leadership*
- Personal interests* (if you have any that an employer may find interesting)
Your profile is where you tell potential employers who you are and why you’re a good fit for their company. What makes you stand out? What are you great at?
Here’s an example: Highly-motivated and accomplished trainer with proven experience in positively impacting the strategy and direction of his company. Proven expertise in developing training programs and creating tools for their sustained success. Strong team builder and motivator comfortable with dynamic, diverse environments and balancing multiple workloads.
Please keep in mind, though, that while you are expressing to your employers why you are different and better, this is not the place for you to talk about your personal beliefs (don’t list being a member of something that could be considered controversial) or show off how creative you can be (if you’re a designer, that’s what your portfolio is for). Your resume should be clean, professional, and serious.
The experience section is actually where you provide proof for all the claims you make in your personal introduction.
As you’re probably aware, this section must be in past tense – even your current position. Be sure to always start every bullet in this section with a powerful action verb. For example: Managed, created, led, developed, etc.
What NOT to do
Here are a few things that should never go in your resume (or cover letter):
- Salary requirements—if/when they want to know, they will ask
- Reasons for leaving your current job—unless you’re looking for a job in a new city/state and you want to mention that you’re planning a move there
- References—they will ask for them if you’re one of the finalists, so have them ready, but don’t jump the gun. Simply state: References available upon request.
- The wrong company name—sometimes you will be churning through these things so fast you can forget to change the company name and address on your cover letter; just double-check yourself every time
I wish you the best of luck in your next position, whether that’s a promotion or a position with a new company! Get the Nerve to step outside your comfort zone and get the job you really want.